Walk Together—and Teach: Advent Words 1, 2, and 3

Ecce Ancilla Domini (Behold the handmaiden of the Lord) by Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1849)

Brief reflections on my own 26 Advents
I first experienced the Anglican liturgy and its repository, the Book of Common Prayer—where I found a home for my rootless soul—on the first Sunday of Advent 1996. Can there be a more perfect story than that of a 43-year-old woman, broken in spirit, whose life changed when she walked through a door that invited “Enter Here in Peace” on the first Sunday of the liturgical year?

But that is an old and oft-told story.  [If you’re interested in former, fuller tellings, take a gander at the three previous—and somewhat random—links.] I mention it only because since that first Advent entered the mythos of my life, the season of hope, waiting, and expectation that we enter today has become a spiritual sanctuary for me, always a dependable source of renewal and redirection and recalibration. And reawakening, I might add.

And because writing has been my most reliable way of approaching the Truths in my life, I have been writing about Advent since 1999 or so. For a few years recently, I have taken part in #AdventWord, an online Advent calendar through which people around the globe and in several languages share their daily thoughts and images about words pre-assigned for each day of Advent. In 2017, I even chose as my Advent discipline to write a blog post every day in which I meditated on the assigned word (you can find all these posts by typing “Advent Word” in the search field to the right; but I digress with self-promotion!).

This year, I once again signed up for #AdventWord, but I didn’t approach the assignment with such intentional rigor. However, when I opened the first daily email this morning, I knew I had to take at least the first step of the journey. For today’s word is WALK. Honestly, I had previously pondered how to write about this word and realized that the thousands of steps I took (with photographs) in the last few years might provide some fodder for contemplation. But then the past week happened, and plans have changed drastically—because the life of someone I hold very dear has changed drastically. Continue reading

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Rights, Reliance, Ruth . . . and More: “R”eflections on Roe

Abortion rights demonstrators gather at the Utah State Capitol in Salt Lake City, June 24. Rick Bowmer/AP

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Green, R-Ga., at the Supreme Court. Tyrone Turner/NPR

In the unlikely event that global warming has put you into a perpetual state of estivation, I will open with what is now clearly yesterday’s news: As expected since May 3, when Josh Gerstein and Alexander Ward of Politico, in direct violation of the customary secrecy of Supreme Court deliberations, leaked the draft majority opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the Court announced on June 24 its 6-3 decision to overturn 1973’s landmark case Roe v. Wade (410 U. S. 113), holding: ”The Constitution does not confer a right to abortion; Roe and Casey are overruled; and the authority to regulate abortion is returned to the people and their elected representatives.” Continue reading

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A Different Path into Mystery—at the Intersection of Science and Religion

A bit of somewhat relevant background 
In mid-May, as a lay preacher at the small Episcopal parish of St. Mary Magdalene in Seven Lakes, North Carolina, I presented the homily for the Office of Morning Prayer. My talk, “The Ineffable Mystery: To Know God and Make Him Known,” took as its starting point Walter T. Stace’s famous dictum: “Either God is a mystery, or he is nothing at all.” As suggested by the lectionary and the collect of the day, I directed my thoughts toward locating glimpses into that mystery by seeking to know God the Father through the example of Jesus his Son.

Even as I finished my preparations for speaking, however, I knew there would be a coda. I just wasn’t ready for it yet.

During a few long walks, I had listened with both delight and wonderment to Alan Lightman’s whimsical but thought-provoking Mr g: A Novel About the Creation. As I wrote my talk about various possibilities for approaching God’s mystery, passages from this little novel kept buzzing in my head. But I didn’t feel I could express their hints adequately without actually reading the words on the page (and doing my usual underlining and annotating and peppering with asterisks and exclamation points and question marks). Reading ground to a halt in the midst of end-of-semester essay grading, so I was just about halfway through the novel when I spoke at church. However, summer arrived, and I can now attest that having the leisure to savor the language and contemplate the insights was well worth the wait. Continue reading

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The Ineffable Mystery: To Know God and Make Him Known

Photo by Vicki Bozzola Derka

In medias res . . . If I wish to tell this story at all, I will have to begin in the midst of things. Is there really any other way to begin, I wonder? Who knows when anything started? I can testify that the narrative arc of my spiritual life has taken a steadily upward trajectory since midyear of 2021, during a “damp, drizzly November in my soul”—even though the calendar said it was late summer. I can pinpoint the moment when I once again began speaking to God—and he to me—and trace the meandering paths I have taken since those first tentative communications. And I will, soon. It is important for me to share this piece of my journey. But today, I want to tell a much more recent part of the story while it’s fresh and clear. I promise to fill in the blanks in upcoming weeks as I revel in the free time of summer vacation with only two classes on my calendar.

Several miraculous turns of fate have granted me the opportunity to use my gifts in ways that have been prevented or shunned for more than 15 years in a spiritual wasteland. The talk I have shared below is the result of one of them. I am in the process of being licensed as a lay minister in a small congregation of the Episcopal Church, St. Mary Magdalene in Seven Lakes, North Carolina. Planning a well-deserved vacation, the vicar asked me to present the homily at the liturgy of Morning Prayer on Sunday, May 15, (the 5th Sunday of Easter, Year C, for those who keep up with the lectionary).

With humility and gratitude, I accepted the assignment, and in the same spirit, I am sharing my somewhat revised remarks below simply because I believe the Lord had and has something important for me to say. And because the intent of my message was to highlight means seeking to know God and make him known in face of the ineffable mystery that he must remain, in my next post, I will share another relevant discovery. Stay tuned. We’re always in medias res.

Continue reading

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Now Available at a Walmart Near You . . .

For those who didn’t graduate from high school 50 years ago and/or aren’t fans of science fiction, let me share this teaser—made even more chilling by the fact that the tagline begins, “The year was 2022.” Continue reading

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Be Careful What You Delete!

Yesterday, I saw this challenge on Facebook. My snarky response was “Government of the offended, by the offended, and for the offended. Unfortunately, I’m afraid it will never perish from the Earth.” I could probably make an entire post about that desideratum inspired by Lincoln’s peroration at Gettysburg. But for now, my mind is actually on some of the other responses I read. Continue reading

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More Mountains, More Epiphanies: My 50th Class Reunion (cont.)

Part 3: Fulfillment

Sharing Memories: GHS Tour
Saturday was packed with reunion activities beginning with a tour of the high school. Aside from a few incidentals–different windows, a change of color, lowered ceilings, the addition of a gazebo, and a new traffic pattern–we found the school much as we had left it. So we couldn’t resist starting the day with a spontaneous chorus of “Globe High Tigers,” fight song of “the dear old school we love so well.”

Whenever Globe High Tigers fall in line,
We’re gonna win this game another time.
And for the dear old school we love so well,
And for the orange and black we’ll yell and yell and yell!
We’re gonna fight, fight, fight for every yard;
We’ll circle in and hit that line right hard.
We’re gonna roll Miami on the side,
Yes, we are! RAH! RAH! RAH!

Our first stop was the GHS Hall of Fame–notable first because it was the classroom where we took second-year algebra, trigonometry, and calculus classes with Mr. Marvin Clark–and where he also guided several of us as staff members for the Wigwam, the school yearbook, in 1970 and 1971. There, GHS archivist Dee Hunt shared fascinating  bits of trivia about our alma mater, and we pored over memorabilia dating back to the school’s founding in 1914. Mostly, it seems, we talked. And talked. And talked. Continue reading

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At the Top of Round Mountain: My 50th Class Reunion (cont.)

Part 2: The Gathering 

First stop!

Thursday, November 4
After uneventful flights from Raleigh-Durham to Sky Harbor, I felt like a rube on her first trip to the big city as I attempted to exit the airport and find my ride. Several text messages  with increasingly specific directions about identifying my location finally afforded me the opportunity to embrace my dear friend Pam and meet her husband, Greg. Our hearts were full as we talked nonstop and passed each in its turn the familiar sights on the always magnificent drive from Phoenix to Globe—the Superstition Mountains, Superior, Devil’s Canyon, Top of the World, the Pinto Creek Bridge, the saguaros, the tailings and slag dumps, and the view of town from G Hill, each with its own unique grandeur.

Continue reading

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To the Tops of Many Mountains: My 50th Class Reunion

Part 1: Making Ready for the Journey

At some moments we experience complete unity within us and around us. This may happen when we stand on a mountaintop and are captivated by the view. It may happen when we witness the birth of a child or the death of a friend. It may happen when we have an intimate conversation or a family meal. It may happen in church during a service or in a quiet room during prayer. But whenever and however it happens we say to ourselves: “This is it … everything fits … all I ever hoped for is here.”

This is the experience that Peter, James, and John had on the top of Mount Tabor when they saw the aspect of Jesus’ face change and his clothing become sparkling white. They wanted that moment to last forever (see Luke 9:28-36). This is the experience of the fullness of time. These moments are given to us so that we can remember them when God seems far away and everything appears empty and useless. These experiences are true moments of grace.

 —Henri Nouwen, Bread for the Journey 

Over the long weekend of November 4-8, I had the privilege of attending the 50th reunion of the Globe High School class of 1971–my first. Language is my love and my vocation, so not surprisingly, I abhor the tired and the outworn. With that preference in mind, I realize that few stories could be more trite than that of the 68-year-old man or woman (we’re all 68–except for Eddie Casillas!) having moving experiences at a 50th class reunion. When people have asked me politely how I enjoyed the reunion, they can scarcely conceal their sidelong glances when I begin rhapsodizing about that life-changing experience. More than one has asked some version of “you’re kidding, right?” But no, I wouldn’t—couldn’t—kid about those five days in November when I had the rare opportunity to make peace with and find joy in my past. And please pardon the cliché, but both figurative and literally, I would describe those precious days as a mountaintop experience, full to the brim with moments of grace. Continue reading

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Teach Me How to Live: Two Advent Lessons

Note: I began this meditation on November 28, the first Sunday of Advent. Some of the frenzy described herein actually prevented me from finishing it until a full week and another day of relative rest later. Given that context, it seemed appropriate to finish and post today, the second Sunday of Advent. Coincidentally, the photo below was taken only last night–the final day to light only one Advent candle–because we didn’t find the Advent wreath until Friday.

Twenty-five years and a few weeks ago, I threw myself down on my knees and cried out in desperation, “Teach me how to live!” I was fumbling my way through a difficult marriage, searching for a job, and rearing a hyperactive four-year-old step-grandchild who had been deposited on my doorstep—a doorstep no child had ever crossed before. Continue reading

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